Goal Monitoring in the Classroom

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by Tara Beziat at Auburn University at Montgomery 

What are your goals for this semester? Have you written down your goals? Do you think your students have thought about their goals and written them down? Though these seem like simple tasks, we often do not ask our students to think about their goals for our class or for the semester. Yet, we know that a key to learning is planning, monitoring and evaluating one’s learning (Efklides, 2011; Nelson, 1996; Schraw and Dennison, 1994; Nelson & Narens, 1994). By helping our students engage in these metacognitive tasks, we are teaching them how to learn.

Over the past couple of semesters, I have asked my undergraduate educational psychology students to complete a goal-monitoring sheet so they can practice, planning, monitoring and evaluating their learning. Before we go over the goal-monitoring sheet, I explain the learning process and how a goal-monitoring sheet helps facilitate learning. We discuss how successful students set goals for their learning, monitor these goals and make necessary adjustments through the course of the semester (Schunk, 1990). Many first-generation students and first-time freshman come to college lacking self-efficacy in academics and one set back can make them feel like college is not for them (Hellman, 1996). As educators we need to help them understand we all make mistakes and sometimes fail, but we need to make adjustments based on those failures not quit.

Second, I talk with my class about working memory, long-term memory, and how people access information in one of two ways: verbally or visually (Baddeley, 2000, 2007). Seeing and/or hearing the information does not make learning happen. As a student, they must take an active role and practice retrieving the information (Karpicke & Roediger, 2008; Roediger & Butler, 2011). Learning takes work. It is not a passive process. Finally, we discuss the need to gauge their progress and reflect on what is working and what is not working. On the sheet I reiterate what we have discussed with the following graphic:

LearningGoalsCycleTaraBeziat

After this brief introduction about learning, we talk about the goal-monitoring sheet, which is divided into four sections: Planning for Success, Monitoring your Progress, Continued Monitoring and Early Evaluation and Evaluating your Learning. Two resources that I used to make adjustments to the initial sheet were the questions in Tanner’s (2012) article on metacognition in the classroom and the work of Gabrielle Oettingen (2014). Oettigen points out that students need to consider possible obstacles to their learning and evaluate how they would handle them. Students can use the free WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) app to “get through college.”

Using these resources and the feedback from previous students, I created a new goal-monitoring sheet. Below are the initial questions I ask students (for the full Goal Monitoring Sheet see the link at the bottom):

  • What are your goals for this class?
  • How will you monitor your progress?
  • What strategies will you use to study and prepare for this class?
  • When can you study/prepare for this class?
  • Possible obstacles or areas of concern are:
  • What resources can you use to achieve your goals?
  • What do you want to be able to do by the end of this course?

Interestingly, many students do not list me, the professor as a resource. I make sure to let the students know that I am available and should be considered a resource for the course. As students, move through the semester they submit their goal-monitoring sheets. This continuing process helps me provide extra help but also guide them toward necessary resources. It is impressive to see the students’ growth as they reflect on their goals. Below are some examples of student responses.

  • “I could use the book’s website more.”
  • “One obstacle for me is always time management. I am constantly trying to improve it.”
  • “I will monitor my progress by seeing if I do better on the post test on blackboard than the pre test. This will mean that I have learned the material that I need to know.”
  • “Well, I have created a calendar since the beginning of class and it has really helped me with keeping up with my assignments.”
  • “I feel that I am accomplishing my goals because I am understanding the materials and I feel that I could successfully apply the material in my own classroom.”
  • “I know these [Types of assessment, motivation, and the differences between valid and reliable, and behaviorism] because I recalled them multiple times from my memory.

Pressley and his colleagues (Pressely, 1983; Pressely & Harris, 2006; Pressely & Hilden, 2006) emphasize the need for instructors, at all levels, to help students build their repertoire of strategies for learning. By the end of the course, many students feel they now have strategies for learning in any setting. Below are a few excerpts from students’ final submission on their goal monitoring sheets:

  • “The most unusual thing about this class has been learning about learning. I am constantly thinking of how I am in these situations that we are studying.”
  • “…we were taught new ways to take in work, and new strategies for studying and learning. I feel like these new tips were very useful as I achieved new things this semester.
Goal Monitoring in the Classroom: Have your students have thought about their goals for your… Click To Tweet

References

Efklides, A. (2011). Interactions of metacognition with motivation and affect in self-regulated learning: The MASRL model. Educational Psychologist46(1), 6-25.

Hellman, C. (1996). Academic self-efficacy: Highlighting the first generation student. Journal of Applied Research in the Community College, 3, 69–75.

Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). The critical importance of retrieval for learning. science319(5865), 966-968.

Nelson, T. O. (1996). Consciousness and metacognition. American Psychologist, 51(2), 102-116. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.51.2.102

Nelson, T. O., & Narens, L. ( 1994). Why investigate metacognition?. In J.Metcalfe & A.Shimamura ( Eds.), Metacognition: Knowing about knowing (pp. 1– 25). Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books.

Oettingen, G. (2014). Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Pressely, M. (1983). Making meaningful materials easier to learn. In M. Pressely & J.R. Levin (Eds.), Cognitive strategy research: Educational applications. NewYork: Springer-Verlag.

Pressley, M., & Harris, K.R. (2006). Cognitive strategies instruction; From basic research to classroom instruction. In P.A. Alexander & P.H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Pressley, M., & Hilden, K. (2006). Cognitive strategies. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.

Roediger III, H. L., & Butler, A. C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in cognitive sciences15(1), 20-27.

Schunk, D. H. (1990). Goal setting and self-efficacy during self-regulated learning. Educational psychologist25(1), 71-86.

Tanner, K.D. (2012). Promoting Student Metacognition. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(2), 113-120. doi:10.1187/cbe.12

5 thoughts on “Goal Monitoring in the Classroom

  1. Chris Was

    Tara,
    It always strikes me as interesting that the students do not see the instructor as a resource.

    second, have you collected any data in this course and on this project?

  2. Tara Beziat

    Chris-
    I have not collected any official data on this topic. However, I have started mentioning in class that I can be a resource and I have noticed more students write down “professor” or my name as a resource now.

  3. John Draeger

    Tara,

    My SoTL breakfast group used your post to spark our discussion this morning. The conversation was quite lively. Two items jumped out:

    First, folks had questions about the nuts-n-bolts of your metacognitive monitoring sheets (e.g., how often students were asked to complete them, whether/how they were graded, whether there was peer discussion of goals).

    Second, there was spirited debate around whether and how student goals should be nested within (or aligned with) course goals. There was also talk of how to align student goals with larger programmatic goals (e.g., students new to a major program might set multi-year goals and departments could use something like your question sheet to follow through).

    Any thoughts?

  4. Tara Beziat

    Hi John!

    This sounds like such a great discussion! For those interested- I have the students complete
    the goal monitoring in parts. There are four parts, so they turn in a total of 4“assignments.” I usually try and have them do Part I early, Part II after they have received some grades, Part III sometime after the mid-point and part 4 near the end of the semester. I do give them a “grade” for completion. However, if
    students miss a portion or I feel need some “guidance,” I ask them to resubmit before I give
    them their “grade.”
    For my undergraduates that use the goal monitoring sheets, I have not facilitated any peer discussion but I like the idea. My graduate level classes, which are fully online, answer metacognitive and content questions in their discussion board posts. Early on the metacognitive questions are geared toward planning, then they move toward monitoring and finally evaluation. The students often comment on fellow classmates metacognitive posts and how they will start using “x” strategy or have never thought about doing “y.”

    I have never thought about aligning the course and personal goals but I am intrigued! Something to
    think about.

  5. John Draeger

    Hi Tara,

    Thanks for the update on the “grading” procedure. I can see the wisdom in awarding points for completion without weighing into the content of their goals.

    The alignment discussion came up because some instructors spend lots of time explaining course goals and relating individual lessons back to course goals and themes. As we were talking, we realized that individual student goals may or may not line up course goals. It could be that student take aways line up nicely with the instructor’s course design. It could also be that the student experience, student goals, and student learning are not closely aligned with the course design. In my philosophy courses, for example, it is possible that a student could set “becoming more open-minded” as an individual learning goal. While this is certainly a goal that is supported by course goals and design, it is not a goal that I assess per se and it is a goal that some students need to work on more than others. I would welcome further conversation on student and course goal alignment.

    I’d welcome conversation surrounding how we might explore this theme.

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